Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Oktoberfest Taste Test

A few years ago in Oshkosh, it wasn’t too difficult to make your way through just about every Oktoberfest-style beer that came to town. To accomplish that this year, you’d have to be an obsessive with a leather liver.

There are currently more than two dozen Oktoberfests being sold in and around Oshkosh. That’s more than I can handle. So where do you start? This might help.

I invited five tasters to sample and rank five Wisconsin-brewed Oktoberfest beers. I purposely selected beers that are easily obtainable in Oshkosh. The panel consisted of three women and two men. Each of them has a solid foundation of beer knowledge. Two of them are homebrewers. I poured the beer and was not a part of the panel.

This was a blind tasting. The participants were not aware of who made these beers. They only knew that they were drinking Oktoberfest-style lagers. Let’s get to the meat: here are the beers in order of overall preference.

1) Lakefront Oktoberfest
2) Point Oktoberfest
3) Central Waters Octoberfest
4) Capital Oktoberfest
5) New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

Surprised? I was. New Glarus sticks out at the bottom of the heap. RateBeer currently ranks Staghorn as the 9th best Oktoberfest in the world. Obviously these tasters wouldn't agree with that. Perhaps this illustrates the beauty of a blind tasting. All of the branding bullshit and hype that inevitably influences us gets tossed out the window when there’s no label there to remind you what you're supposed to like. The geeks loitering at RateBeer don’t enjoy such an advantage.

Lakefront and Point stole the show. Lakefront's Oktoberfest took 4 out of 5 first-place votes. Point took the other. Point’s Oktoberfest took three 2nd place votes and a 4th-place vote. The bottom three beers were tightly clumped with Capital beating out New Glarus for 4th place by a nose. Each of the tasters mentioned that the beers were extremely similar. None of the beers were said to be “off” or bad.

If you can swing it, I’d encourage you to try something like this yourself. It’s illuminating and a lot of fun. Short of that, I’d go grab a sixer of the Lakefront beer or a 12-pack of the Point beer in cans. ‘Tis the season, after all.

1 comment:

  1. Man would I like to try out your recipe! My dad was a home brewer for a really long time. He's not in the business anymore now that I'm old enough to drink. I'm sure you have to taste each batch to make sure it's good ;)

    Gerald Vonberger |